Jewish students challenge anti-Semites at NUS

National Union of Students debate over whether to mark Holocaust Memorial Day was the last straw for many Jewish students.

Ari Soffer ,

Anti-Israel protester in London (file)
Anti-Israel protester in London (file)

The vote by Britain's National Union of Students (NUS) to appoint an openly anti-Semitic student who proudly supports acts of terrorism against Israelis as its president overshadowed another, equally disturbing vote by the NUS on Wednesday.

At the NUS annual conference in Brighton, Jewish students were left aghast at having to defend a motion to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.

The motion - which did eventually pass - was fiercely opposed by many students, prompting angry responses from Jewish students in return, who say the unwillingness to commemorate the Holocaust is merely a symptom of a wider pervasive anti-Semitism growing among the British student Left.

One of the most loudly-applauded speeches was indeed one delivered by a student opposed to the motion, who contended that commemorating the Holocaust would show that "some lives are worth more than others" - a reference to Jews.

Jewish students, however, repeatedly observed that marking the greatest genocide in modern European history in no way negated the option of marking other genocides as well, and noted that Jews are alone among minority students in receiving no support - and often only mockery and hostility - when protesting anti-Semitism or seeking to commemorate injustices committed against their people.

Izzy Lenga, a leading Jewish student activist and co-chair of NUS's Anti-Racism, Anti-Fascism (ARAF) campaign, took to the stage to berate fellow students for the "deep-rooted, institutional problem within the movement, that can only go away when students wake up to the fact that NUS has a problem with Jewish students."

"This movement fails year after year to take the abuse and hatred towards Jewish students seriously," Lenga said, describing the "serious reality where Jewish students are targeted on campuses and signalled out in the movement for just being Jewish."

Taking aim directly at many of her fellow students, she challenged:

"If you're accused of anti-Semitism and your first thought is 'oh, just another smear campaign', you're probably anti-Semitic. If when I walked up on stage... your first thought was "here comes the 'Zio'," that's anti-Semitic. And if you believe that providing a context justifies an attack on a Jewish student - that's anti-Semitism."

Lenga further protested the decision to annul the one position within the NUS - one which she currently holds at ARAF - which is reserved for a Jewish student.

In her final speech as NUS President before Malia Bouattia - who branded Jewish Societies as "Zionist outposts" - takes over, outgoing president Megan Dunn voiced her shock at the very fact that a motion to commemorate the Holocaust was even being debated:

Although, as mentioned, the motion did pass in spite of the opposition, many students who spoke to Arutz Sheva - all of whom, notably, asked for anonymity - expressed their shock and fear over the course that the NUS is likely to take under Bouattia.

The sound of hundreds of students applauding attempts to erase the memory of the Holocaust is unlikely to convince them otherwise.